It is with a heavy heart that we share news of the passing of Bro. Seán Sammon, FMS ’70, a member of Marist’s Board of Trustees and Scholar in Residence at Marist since 2010. A former Superior General of the Marist Brothers worldwide, Brother Seán was an extraordinary leader and an even better human being, universally loved and admired by all who knew him. He was known to Marist students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends alike as a caring, thoughtful, and insightful individual with a remarkable ability to listen and engage in respectful dialogue. He will be dearly missed.
A resident of the Marist campus for the past 12 years, Brother Seán had a unique ability to connect with others, and he was a tremendously positive influence on campus life. A frequent presence at events, he was an outstanding mentor to countless Marist students. Drawing on his academic background and professional experience, he frequently lectured on leadership and interpersonal relations to campus groups such as the Emerging Leaders Program. Brother Seán was also a great cook, and he was famous for hosting dinners for students and alumni alike. In 2017, he played an instrumental role in bringing the Marist Novitiate to Kirk House. As novice director, he helped prepare young men for the life of a Marist Brother in the 21st century.
On our Board of Trustees, Brother Seán chaired the Academic Affairs Committee for the past nine years, doing a wonderful job leading that committee’s work overseeing all aspects of academic life at Marist. In this role, he was deeply committed to promoting academic excellence, as well as mutual respect and constructive dialogue between the Board of Trustees and the faculty. Brother Seán cared greatly about the student experience as well, serving on the Board’s Student Life and Diversity and Inclusion Committees. During Board meetings, he could always be counted upon for insightful contributions, reasoned analysis, and unfailing collegiality.
Brother Seán was born to immigrant parents in Manhattan in 1947. He studied psychology at Marist, graduating in 1970, and was drawn to religious life through his contact with the Marist Brothers, admiring their way of life and sense of community. Brother Seán went on to earn a master’s in psychology from the New School for Social Research and a doctorate in clinical psychology from Fordham University. He worked as a licensed psychologist in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts before assuming a series of leadership roles in the Marist Brothers. While serving as provincial of the Poughkeepsie Province, he was elected asassistant superior general and then superior general, based in Rome.
From 2001 to 2009, Brother Seán served as superior general of the Marist Brothers, overseeing the work of more than 4,000 Brothers in 79 countries. He established a relationship between the Brothers and the United Nations Human Rights Council, and was the only Brother to serve on the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, which advises the Pope and makes policy decisions for religious orders worldwide. He was also president of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, a group representing the leadership of Catholic religious congregations within the United States.
A prolific writer and scholar, Brother Seán was the author of nearly a dozen books, including A Heart That Knew No Bounds: The Life and Mission of Saint Marcellin Champagnat, Alcoholism’s Children: ACoAs in Priesthood and Religious Life, and An Undivided Heart: Making Sense of Celibate Chastity. His 2016 book Life After Youth: The Story of One Man’s Journey Through the Transition at Midlife garnered an award from the Catholic Press Association. In 2020, he received the National Religious Vocation Conference’s Outstanding Recognition Award for his lifetime body of work and vision for religious life. He had previously received the St. Edmund’s Medal of Honor from the Edmundite Fathers and Brothers for his contributions to the Catholic Church.
Memories of Brother Seán
A true idealist until the very end, Brother Seán once told me that “if you can’t change the world all at once, change it one person at a time.” He was truly the best mentor and friend that I could have ever asked for, and was always there for us whenever we needed him the most. Brother Seán would always share the best stories from his international travels, and — often over an incredible homemade meal — would challenge us to consider how we can make the world a better place while inspiring us to be the best versions of ourselves. He was a legend that touched many lives and will never be forgotten.
—Andrew Paulsen ’12
I have been extraordinarily blessed with the good fortune of knowing Seán since we were freshmen in high school. Our introduction to adolescence came by reading The Catcher in the Rye in English class and years later our intellectual curiosity saw us writing our dissertations on the same theory of Adult Development in Psychology.
His passion and caring for others was his signature virtue. His friendship was part of our family life for over 50 years. Whatever idealism, compassion, and commitment to social justice I may have came by way of nurturing from Seán. I had the privilege of visiting him two weeks before he passed away. We spent a long afternoon talking, laughing, and facing the grim realization that he wasn’t getting any better. We hugged goodbye late that afternoon with sorrowful but hope-filled hearts.
Like St. Marcellin Champagnat, a man that he greatly admired and loved, Sean was a person whose “heart knew no bounds.” He was a man in love with God. We all have benefited by calling him cherished “friend” and beloved “B/brother.”
—Dr. Anthony Miserandino ’70